Conflagrant Rodent by Orl
Orl's new map takes place in a vast series of caverns, canyons, and ruined medieval structures, into many of which are built broken wooden structures like bridges, ladders and platforms. From the start I could tell that this map was going to be excellent. Ruined architecture takes time to do in Quake, and the amount of work put into this level clearly shows. To list a few of the details which appear in this map, there are dislodged stones, fallen beams, broken arches, and bent and shattered doors (this was an especially nice and unique detail). In many cases, these details are used as part of the layout, so that the gameplay involves a lot of jumping and climbing. This is fairly unique and really satisfying, the only analogy I can think of is my own soe1m3, but there the consequences of falling from the climb spots was nothing serious. In contrast, this map makes heavy use of lava, so that there is a sense of real danger (remember crossing the broken mine tracks in hip1m3?).
There are some places where pieces of architecture drop off into the lava once you step on them, but what's more dangerous is the (thankfully appropriately constrained) use of monsters while the player is in such situations. New mileage is made out of scrags especially, which are suddenly much more dangerous when they can block your jump and knock you into the lava, or shoot you at inopportune moments on some high tiny platform. A section with a moving trolley and a unique use of lava is also well done; overall the map consists of many distinct, well-designed segments, so that the gameplay is constantly interesting. New textures contribute to the look, including a fire texture which is used for doom-like effect in some places; the design is both a technical and visual achievement.
The centrepiece of the map is a huge medieval courtyard with water inside it and lava and caves attached to it; this section is full of walkways, arches, platforms, torches, beams, etc; it is a very nicely designed room, and as elsewhere in the map it incorporates very nice rockwork into it. The map is very interconnected, and does not skimp on connecting one area to another visually; given the amount of detail, the map can probably be compared to This Onion, in terms of medieval setpiece design incorporated with lava and caverns. Gameplay is nicely balanced - fiends and vores are especially dangerous around lava, but the grenade launcher is provided and you are even forced to over-rely on it in places, which is an interesting challenge. Health is plentiful for the most part - it's about surviving section to section, though there are a couple especially dangerous areas, including the end. What we are talking about with this map, is a massive, detailed, well-conceived and well-executed Q1SP that takes an old theme (Red Stone medieval) and updates it in a very nice way. Welcome back to the elder world, this seems like the best map of the year so far to me.